Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Gospel Cure for a Child’s Heart (and Our Own)

Lying in his bed, with tears running down his face, my son tried to calm down after an emotional outburst. I came into the room to talk to him about it. Snuggling up next to him, we discussed what had happened.

“But Mom, you don’t understand. It’s because you and brother irritate me so much. You make me angry. If you leave me alone, I won't be angry.”

My son has been engaged in an intense battle with anger lately. The littlest thing sets him off and I’m brought in as referee.

“Buddy, we don't make you angry. The anger comes from within you. It comes from your own sin inside your heart."

I recited Jesus’s words in Matthew 15:18, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” Needless to say, he did not agree with me. And looking back on that conversation, and my attempts to convince him that people don’t make him angry, I realized that it took me many years to learn that lesson myself.

The Blame Game

For much of my life, I’ve battled my own out-of-control feelings. Depression has held me hostage many times in the dark cell of despair and sorrow. And for so long, I blamed my circumstances and other people for those feelings. “If only my parents wouldn’t fight so much, I wouldn’t be so upset.” “If only my husband didn’t work so much, I wouldn’t be so stressed out.” “If only my kids would sleep, I wouldn’t be so irritable.” “If only my life would work out the way I want, then I’d feel better.”

I can understand my son’s heart and his attempts to blame others for his sin. I do the same thing. I live my life for me and me alone. I want what I want when I want it. I expect others to respond according to my desires. The sin in my heart seeks my best interest and responds in anger, frustration, worry, stress, and despair when things don’t work out the way I want.

The Gospel is the Key

The classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, describes a scene where Christian, the main character, was held captive in Doubting Castle by the Giant called Despair. Christian had the key of Promise tucked in his shirt and had forgotten about it. But once he remembered that he had it, he used it to open the doors of his prison and was freed to continue on his journey to the Celestial City.

The same is true for me. While I wait with growing impatience for someone else to free me from my emotional prison, the truth is, I already have the key to get out. The good news of Jesus crucified and raised for me is the key that frees me from every cell that could ever hold me captive. The gospel tells me that Jesus came to save me from my enslavement and imprisonment to sin. He entered into the mess of my life, becoming sin for me and taking the punishment I deserved. Through faith in his redemptive work for me, I have been set free. He’s given me his Spirit to convict me, draw me to repentance, and transform me from the inside out.

The Real Change We Need

The journey to holiness is a slow one — it’s more of a marathon than a race. God doesn’t reveal to us all our sins at once. Instead, he peels back a layer at a time. My son is only five and has a long way to go. His problem with anger is a heart issue that only the gospel and the power of the Spirit can cure.

As much as I’d like to rush the process, I know God has a story for my son that he has to live out. While I continue to correct and instruct him in obedience, I know that the real change he needs can only come from the Spirit who transforms our hearts. So I walk beside him in the journey, pointing him to the cross and the freedom from sin that Jesus purchased for him there. I share the gospel with him every chance I get. Each day, I pray in humble reliance upon God and his work in my son’s heart, asking him to show my son his sin of anger and his desperate need for a Savior.

Because as I’ve learned from my own journey, the gospel is the only cure for a sinful heart.

Christina Fox is a homeschooling mom, licensed mental health counselor, and writer. She lives in sunny south Florida with her husband of sixteen years and their two boys. You can find her sharing her faith journey at

Monday, June 17, 2013


Good article from

TractorI just had a fascinating conversation with my brother-in-law, Andy, about discipleship.
Andy farms and knows all about tractors (especially a certain green brand).
We were talking about how people respond better to teaching when someone has taken the time to work with them personally in their spiritual life. In the middle of the conversation, Andy said, “its just like preparing the soil.”
(Disclaimer –I know nothing about farming. So if I get this wrong, please remember, it’s the thought that counts!)
Andy explained that, in farming, there are several methods of soil preparation: No-till preparation, Minimal-till preparation, and Sub-soil-till preparation.
No-till preparation is just what it sounds like. You plant without tilling. It saves time and money (at least at first) because you don’t have to run your equipment (and fuel) over the land before planting.
Minimal-till preparation could be anything from “scratching the surface” of the ground to going 6-8 inches deep. This loosens the soil up and makes it easier to plant.
Sub-soil-till preparation goes even deeper. Andy shared that many times, ground that is only tilled 6-8 inches can still be hard underneath. This keep roots from being able to penetrate deep and blocks nutrients from being absorbed. Over time, the topsoil can wash away –along with the minerals, leaving shallow-rooted plants “high-and dry.”
Andy said that the more soil preparation you do, the better your crop will turn out in the long-run. Basically, he said, every farmer has to choose whether or not to make the investment on the front end. Sub-soil-till preparation, he explained, is more costly and harder work that no-till or minimal-till. But -Andy continued to share -the benefits outweigh the cost.
Isn’t this just like discipleship?
I hear a lot of ministers (after preaching or teaching) say they have “scattered their seed” and they hope someone “took it to heart.” Similarly, I hear church members say, “I brought a friend so that the preacher can plant a seed in them.”
Maybe, like a farmer (2 Timothy 2:6), the best work we can do is “soil preparation” before we teach or preach (Hosea 10:12). Yes, its harder work and costs more time and energy –but the benefits are worth it!
Here’s some practical ideas for “tilling up hearts” (for everyone –not just preachers)
1) Get involved in people’s real life & let them get involved in your real life.
You can’t break up a hard heart from a distance. It takes time and attention.  “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”
2) Have spiritual conversations around real life.
Spiritual conversations are most effective in the middle of real life circumstances. People are most receptive to Truth when they have questions driven by real life events. In the farming world, you’ve got to plan the seed at the right time –when the soil is ready.
3) Be prepared to exhort and rebuke.
Ouch. The “R” word… Seriously, a real friend will confront people with their sin out of love for their friend. Preparing soil also means ripping out weeds. It is tough, but necessary work.
The “E” word is much more pleasant, although I’m not sure we practice it nearly enough. Exhort means to “strongly encourage someone.” If someone has allowed you into his or her life, you’ve been given a great privilege. Don’t miss the opportunity to encourage them in living for Christ. Give them positive feedback in how to live a God-honoring life.
So, what will it be? No-till, minimal-till, or sub-soil till? The deeper you go, the greater the harvest.
For my pastor/preacher friends: This means we can’t just hide behind the pulpit or lectern and say, “I’ve done my part.” No, we must reach out into the real lives of our people and live among them as Christ took on flesh (Philippians 2:7-8) and lived among us (John 1:14).
If you aren’t a pastor/preacher, you have just as much responsibility to “till the soil” as your pastor. In fact, you are in partnership with your pastor. Instead of just bringing a friend to church so a “seed can be planted” by a pastor or teacher, why not “prepare the soil” so the seed has a place to take root?

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Necessity of Understanding in Edification

Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. (1Co 14:16-19 ESV)
I love the experience of God's presence and the genuine work of the Spirit in the body of Christ but cannot tolerate those who advocate checking your brain out at the door.  I have had well meaning individuals give me 'words from the Lord' about my mind being a stumbling block to my understanding and experience of God.  I have never been curt enough to tell them they were wrong (or maybe gutless is a better description!).   Here is what Schreiner says about this issue.  "Paul does not believe that others are edified when what is going on in the assembly - no matter how emotionally gripping - bypasses rational faculties.   He desires his converts to b emotionally gripped by the truth of the gospel; but the path to the emotions is through the mind, not around it."  Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ, p. 354.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Paul's Idea of Being Led by the Spirit as it Relates to the Necessity of Obedience.

On Romans 8:14-17 Schreiner notes that "those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God (8:14)." The Spirit's leading does not involve guidance for everyday decisions but submission to the Spirit's authority (I do not think he is making an absolute statement). Those who are part of God's family yield to the Spirit's direction. Subjection to sin is equated with "slavery," for the very mark of the Spirit's presence is liberation form sin and a joyful and heartfelt acclamation of God as Father (Rom 8:15). The Spirit also witnesses with our spirits that we are God's children (Rom 8:160. This witness of the Spirit is ultimately inseparable from a changed life, and yet it is not precisely the same thing as our moral transformation. The Spirit communicates in an ineffable way that we are part of God's family. Such communication form the Spirit cannot be objectively discerned since it is subjectively experienced. Nonetheless, this inner witness of the Spirit can never be divorced from obedience. Believers must not herald a subjective witness that is contradicted by their everyday lives. Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ, p. 284-85; italics mine.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why Evangelism Cannot Be our Focus

This is a great video by Missional Guru Alan Hirsch. While I would not subscribe to everything he says in this video I do agree with his main thesis.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Tragic Cost of Non-discipleship

David Platt discusses the tragic cost of non-discipleship on this new blog I found.  I added it to the list of sones I cannot possibly keep up to date reading!  It is very helpful on discipleship and missional living which our church is committed to.
He says, “…the cost of discipleship is great. To live with radical abandonment for His glory, faithful adherence to His person, urgent obedience to His ministry—this is costly. This could cost us, or the people we lead, our lives. But I submit to you this morning that the cost of non-discipleship is far, far, far greater.
The cost of non-discipleship is great for scores of people in the church sitting comfortably right now under the banner of Christianity, but have never counted the cost of following Christ—many eternally deceived. There’s great cost for all who settle for casual association with Jesus and miss out on the abundance and satisfaction and joy that he has designed for us. There’s a cost that comes to monotonous routine Christianity. Don’t do it and don’t lead churches like that. We’ll waste our lives away like that.
The cost will be great for us and the church…And the cost of nominal Christianity will be great for those who are lost in this world. For people in our communities, our cities, for people groups are the world who will go on without the Gospel, because we are content with not making disciples of all the nations. Because in our casual approach to Christianity we are leaving them on a road that leads to an eternal hell. The consequences to casual cultural Christianity are tragic—eternally tragic…Let’s follow Him with abandonment for His glory, with dependance of His grace, with adherence to His Person, and with urgent obedience to His mission.”
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